Laura Misch on Touring, Her EP, and Female Representation in Music

Laura Misch is a wonderfully talented Jazz Saxophonist/Singer from London, and has just come back from touring with her brother Tom Misch and Carmody. She has just released her debut EP ‘Shaped by Who We Knew‘, which is amazing, so if you haven’t checked it out, make sure you do. 

How was your tour? Which cities did you visit? Which cities were best?

The tour was really special. It felt like a family trip cause we have all known each other for sometime now and the team is really lovely. It wasn’t my tour, it was Tom’s and Carmody’s but I was involved in both sets so it was like touring with two projects at once. It is hard to pick a highlight city because there are so many details to which effect your experience of the performance. From the mix of people who come down, the space you are playing in, right down to the monitor mix. I would say the show that stood out was Paris because the crowd seemed to be really into the early music, the stuff that you find in the depths of Soundcloud rather than the newer stuff that is on mainstream platforms. When you hear the crowd getting excited about musical licks and nuances that were made 3 years ago at home – that is really surreal.

What made you get involved with music in the first place?

We all started playing violin at a young age via my dad. So I guess through my dad really, we started with Suzuki method which trains the ear well.

How would you describe your performances for someone who has never seen you play?

Hmmm. So far the set up has been different every time (full band, solo, acoustic, electronic, bvs etc). I am new to the live set up thing because I did my first solo gig in September 2016 so have been testing out different ways of presenting. But the common threads are that I play the alto sax, sing and make lots of loops and trigger beats to make people move.

Laura’s set plans

Jazz is a genre where every artist brings their own spin to it, for example Masego is making Trap Jazz, what do you want to bring to Jazz that hasn’t been brought before?

I guess I’m not that interested in fusing jazz styles. I mean that is cool, but I’d rather use the sax as a means to an end sonically. I guess I’m interested in using the sax as a sonic vehicle to generate sounds that have been manipulated. That’s what excited me about pedals, harmonisers, and live looping. It’s like the genesis is a sax, but the sounds are more alien.

Which musicians do you admire musically? (past or present)

Admiration is a funny thing cause it can be really fleeting for me. Like someone’s music can speak to me one minute, then the next it doesn’t. Currently I most admire the musicians who I know on a deeper level than just their finished product. So I guess mostly musicians around me. Carmody, Tom, Ben Hayes, the girls from the podcast we do, called Time of The Month: (Again: Carmody, Emmavie, Marie Dahlstrom, Ruby Wood of Submotion orchestra.) I admire watching, listening to and sometimes being a part of their processes of creation, I admire their determination to get up and create even though it’s tough as independent artists. I am not very good at keeping up with the latest artists or the scene in general. So I guess admiration comes down to artists I see a full-er picture of.

What has been your favourite moment/gig so far?

Favourite gig was supporting Noname. She is so dope and her crowd’s energy was so electric, so I guess having the opportunity to steal some of that crowd-energy-excitement before she came on was amazing haha. 

How has the response to your EP Shaped by Who We Knew been?

People have responded well, the whole release was really DIY, so to have so many people listen purely from organic sharing and growth was humbling.

With 86% of all performers at festivals in 2015 being male, there is obviously a problem of female representation in music. What steps can be taken to change this as obviously there are equally as many females making music?

I think I have been battling with the female producer question more that female performer question recently, though I didn’t actually know that statistic, that is shocking!

Vis-a-vi female producers there was a really good Fader article on this recently basically it sums up all my ideas in via the mids of several female artists and I would just be paraphrasing it. Having said all that I am going to paraphrase it cause Caroline Polacheck put my thoughts perfectly vis-a-vi representation and archetypes:

There are plenty of female artists out there now who are self-produced and doing cutting-edge productions to surround their own vocals or compositions, which is vital part of the musical landscape right now, but the resulting message is that the female producer is an aesthetically presented vocalist who only produces her own songs. This sets up three additional hurdles to an already challenging field, because vocal chops, aesthetic presentation, and songwriting are three separate and time-consuming skills that should in no way be prerequisite. The archetype of Male Producer (take Rick Rubin, or Phil Spector for example) is not a man who necessarily composes, sings, or looks good on camera. Quite the opposite—the Male Producer is passionate about music but not a performer, putting in years hunched behind the console in unglamorous isolation before achieving guru status. By holding up female performers as producer-icons, we could potentially be discouraging the girls who don’t feel comfortable presenting themselves as visual objects from entering the field. At the moment, an artist is not as likely to bring in a woman to produce his track as a man, not because of a bias against women per se, but because on some level it’s playing safe: a killer producer, history tells us, looks like a man. Also the steep minority of women producers to choose from makes it a less likely match for artists seeking it out. But Jay-Z brought in 16 year old Ebony “WondaGurl” Oshunrinde to make beats for his Magna Carta record, and hopefully more rappers will follow suit.

For others aspiring to be the next WondaGurl, there’s an uphill battle to push through to be taken seriously by clients and create a whole new archetype for girls on decks. The ones who do will be heroes and exponentially attract others to the field. I think it’s up to girls to teach themselves the skills they need and step up to the plate as musical pioneers, not up to corporate sponsorships to give handouts that emphasize that the recipient is a minority rather than as a expert. Ultimately the music has to speak for itself and make the biggest change. I really think it’s only a matter of time though. I’d give it five years max till we have a top 10 track made by a female producer.

Where does the responsibility of female under representation in music lie?

Responsibility for under-representation lies in future media representation. In the female driven work which is highlighted, exposed, and critically engaged with across mainstream platforms… I have seen lots of articles and discussion about this recently so we are on the right track.

Also in facilities, funding, access etc. These things seem to change from the outside so we need to start with community projects.

Brainchild are doing a series of female producer workshops in February which I am currently creating sample packs for, so keep an eye out for those.

As yourself and Tom are both extremely talented, I must ask what is your family like? Is there something magical your parents gave you guys as kids to make you fantastically gifted?

Haha nooo. Talent is interesting because there is just so much of it especially in South London it seems… Maybe talent it is more of a collective/environmental thing than people realise: a scene, what people are exposed to, have access to etc. I think if anything my parents have encouraged us to be creative. They are harsh with opinions sometimes, aren’t afraid to say that’s crap, which makes you build thick skin haha. 

Yourself, Tom, Jordan Rakei seem to be making some all encompassing collaborative London music conglomerate. What’s your views on collaboration generally and who would you like to collaborate with in the future?

Collaboration is kind of vital for me. Even if it is just getting opinions or bouncing ideas. London is saturated with musicians so it has a  very healthy collaboration scene. I have a long list of friends who I have wanted to collab with for a while but we are waiting for our diaries to match up so we can do that!

Carmody in Brighton with Laura

I’ve seen that you have done some performances with Carmody, any music with her we can look forward to?

Yes we have some songs we have written and are planning to record this year!

Thanks to Laura Misch for catching up with us, keep an eye on her Facebook, Twitter for her upcoming gigs.

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